Quietly Finishing the Goal

52 hike patch held against a natural background.

#52hike of my 52 Hike Challenge

Trail/Park: Frontenac State Park, MN

I go to nature to be soothed, healed and have my senses put in order.

John Burroughs

My 52nd hike. For all kinds of reasons I struggled with what I wanted this day to look like. Just like the challenge itself, everyone does this one differently. Some go big. For others it’s just another hike. It might have come quickly or taken longer than expected.

Many questions swirled around it for me:

Did I want to repeat last year’s hike with an invitation for friends and family to join me?

Did I want it to be a solo hike?

Where would be meaningful for me or did that matter?

And the big one: Did I want to wait until November 4th to have this hike be a memorial hike on the anniversary of my mom’s death?

After all, she’d come to reluctantly support me in my hiking adventures, always worried about my safety as an often-solo hiker. I’d hiked in the days before we said our final goodbye last year, finding comfort in the woods. Finding peace. I’d hiked by myself and with my family. As we near the anniversary, this time is loaded, just as my grief counselor had predicted, with meaning and emotion.

I knew the answer would come with time. So as Friday neared, I found myself calling my dad to see if he’d like to hike with me. I didn’t tell him anything other than I was going and that I’d like to bring him along. He agreed, both to the hike and my choice of park. I reminded him that he should wear his hiking boots that we picked out together last fall because I know he hasn’t used them much.

We met at my house before heading out to Frontenac State Park. It’s one of my favorites and is just over an hour drive, which makes it a great day trip. I have come to appreciate the views from the Upper Bluff Trail and the sweeping prairie sections dotted with sumac. It’s got relatively flat sections and a few hills that, for us midwestern folks, give mini elevation challenges and a good workout for your legs. I knew it would be less likely to be muddy too.

Ruth in left of photo with her dad on the right in the background while hiking at Frontenac State Park.

As we hiked in the cool temperatures we talked about many things. Dad’s recent trips to visit old navy buddies and our family in other states, his car camping adventures, and so many other tidbits. Mostly I let dad talk and I listened. It was what I needed. To be in this place that I love with this man who loves nature so much. I reflected at one point how grateful I was for the day with him.

While I wish I’d known more of these kinds of days with dad as a youth and young adult, I realize now that my love for traveling and the outdoors came from him. His sense of adventure may have been muted, but it’s always been lurking just under the surface. Whenever I can, whenever it makes sense, I’ll ask him to join me on hikes so that we don’t miss anymore of these days in each other’s company.

I also know that I’ll come to terms with the fact that this time I get with dad is so poignant because mom isn’t with us anymore. As her caregiver and spouse, dad rarely took time away from home as they got older that didn’t include mom in some way. Her absence is just as keen now as her presence was, for both of us. We’re finding our way through this change in our relationship to one another and hiking seems a natural way to get to forge this new time in our relationship. I think mom would be very happy to see us spending time in this way together.

Grassy trail with fall foliage on either side.

As I head into the next couple of weeks, I’ll be finding my way in connecting with my mom’s memory too. I don’t know what that will look like. I just trust that when the time comes, I’ll know what the right place for honoring her memory in my hiking adventures is too. Until then, I’ll just pick another trail, lace up my boots and get moving. She’d want that. I’m sure of it.

Ruth hugging her mom with her dad in the background of the photo. They are outdoors on a sunny day.

GEAR: REI Co-op 650 Down Jacket, Vasque Talus Mid UltraDry Hiking Boots, Marmot Kompressor Pack, SPOT GEN3 Satellite GPS Messenger, Dueter Dirtbag, Kula Cloth, Leki Lhasa Lite AS trekking poles. Want to know more about my gear selections? Head on over to Gear & Gadgets

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Copyright Ruth Wikoff-Jones, ruthsbluemarble.com | No Use Permitted Without Prior Permission

4 thoughts on “Quietly Finishing the Goal

  1. Congratulations on your 52nd hike! What a beautiful post, Ruth. Walking through grief is such a personal experience. I appreciate your sharing your story. xo Tina

    1. Thank you for reading the post and for taking the time to comment Tina. I had so many more things I could have written about in that post. It’s hard sometimes to know what to leave in and what to leave out.

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